Heyward's absence opens up R.o.Y. field

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
4:34
PM ET
Jason Heyward's fate should serve as a lesson in humility for all of us.

Or most of us, anyway. Because most of us would have bet good money in April that Heyward would become the National League's Rookie of the Year. But today, with the news that he's going on the DL indefinitely, suddenly that race is wide open.

At Capitol Avenue Club, Peter Hjort ran through a long list of candidates:
Recent promotions: Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton, Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, Buster Posey, Jhoulys Chacin, Madison Bumgarner, Starlin Castro, Jose Tabata.

Steady performers: Gaby Sanchez, Mike Leake, Tyler Colvin, Jon Niese, David Freese, Jamie Garcia, Alcides Escobar.

Dark Horses: Jonny Venters, Roger Bernadina, Neil Walker, George Kottaras.

At the end of this week, the season will essentially be half over. If you haven't done anything notable yet, you're out of the running for Rookie of the Year. Mike Stanton, Pedro Alvarez, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Jose Tabata all fall into this category. Most of those guys will be good major leaguers, maybe as soon as this summer. But they're not winning any big awards this season.

I think Strasburg's a long shot, too. As brilliantly as he's pitched, he's got only two wins and isn't likely to start more than a dozen-odd more games this season. Which means he probably won't win more than 10. He may get some support, but voters tend to appreciate quantity along with quality.

Ike Davis probably doesn't belong in the "recent promotions" group, as he debuted in mid-April and has played regularly since then. He hasn't been great, but he's piled up enough counting stats -- including nine homers and 33 RBI -- to place among the top candidates if he heats up some in the second half.

[+] EnlargeGaby Sanchez
Howard Smith/US PresswireGaby Sanchez is batting .302 with 8 home runs.
Davis hasn't been as good as fellow first baseman Gaby Sanchez, though.

Sanchez was supposedly just a place-holder for the Marlins until Logan Morrison is ready. (Which, as it happens, is approximately right now. If I were a contending team looking for some pop at first base, I would call Miami.) But the place-holder leads the National League's rookies (including Heyward) in both on-base and slugging percentage.

Among qualifiers, anyway. Tyler Colvin's got a .583 slugging percentage, but has played just half the time. Rookie shortstops Alcides Escobar and Ian Desmond have played a lot but haven't hit (and their teams aren't winning). David Freese has been decent, but can't match Sanchez's numbers and just landed on the DL.

Atlanta's Jonny Venters has been brilliant, but a non-closing reliever has little chance. He's not a dark horse, he's the darkest horse. I'm not completely convinced that 27-year-old George Kottaras is actually a rookie, nor am I convinced that voters would notice a part-time catcher with a .208 batting average (solid OPS notwithstanding). Pittsburgh's Neil Walker should fall under the heading of "recent promotions" and he's done well (.295/.325/.464) in his 28 games. Washington's Roger Bernadina has roughly the same percentages as Walker but he's played twice as many games.

Which leaves the pitchers, and three pretty good ones. Look at these guys, all of whom have spent practically all season in their teams' rotations:

Garcia: 7-4, 2.27 (1.89)
Leake: 5-1, 2.92 (1.61)
Niese: 5-2, 3.84 (2.11)

The every-day players typically have the upper hand in these affairs; a starting pitcher probably needs to win at least a dozen games to have any sort of shot this year.

If Jason Heyward comes back in a couple of weeks and plays well, he's probably still the No. 1 candidate. But if he doesn't, I rank the contenders something like this:

1. Gaby Sanchez
2. Jaime Garcia
3. Stephen Strasburg
4. Mike Leake
5. Roger Bernadina

I'm fairly sure about those top two, but obviously a lot can happen in three months. Just ask Jason Heyward.

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